Naima Cochrane

Contributor to Billboard.com. 

Mary J. Blige

After 25 Years, Essence Fest Is More Family Reunion Than Music Festival

Essence has grown over 25 years to one of the premiere gatherings for Black music, entertainment and culture, drawing averages of 500,000 attendees annually. But even as the event continuously hit record numbers, it remained somewhat of a secret outside of the demo, even in the age of music festivals.